Veto spares Juneau

Murkowski makes few cuts in capital, operating budgets

Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Gov. Frank Murkowski sparingly used his red pen on the state budgets as he signed the two bills Tuesday in Anchorage.

For the next fiscal year, which begins Friday, the governor cut $730,000 from the $1.7 billion capital budget and about $462,000 from $2.6 billion of general funds spent in the operating budget. The cuts did not include any Juneau projects.

"(The administration) has pretty much agreed with the Legislature," Murkowski said.

The total amount of next fiscal year's budgets with federal funds is about $7 billion, not including hundreds of millions more in supplemental spending for this year.

The operating budget veto denied the Department of Corrections funding for the Alaska State Troopers to transport misdemeanant prisoners to and from the Anchorage area correctional facilities for court appearances.

"This is clearly a local responsibility and, indeed, is being performed by the Anchorage Police Department," Murkowski wrote in a letter to Senate President Ben Stevens.

Funding for 10 public works projects was cut partially for not having adequate documentation to confirm the reason for the spending: A sports complex in Anchorage will receive $100,000 less than the $2 million it requested.

Certain utility construction projects in Homer and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough were denied because the governor said the costs should be paid by ratepayers. Cheryl Frasca, the governor's budget director, said this is not a trend.

Projects for nonprofit organizations, such as the Fairbanks Motorcycle Racing Lions Club and the Northwest Archers Association, were denied funding because their clubs serve a limited number of Alaskans, Frasca said.

But the state typically funds projects for the Boys and Girls Clubs or the Boy Scouts, which are inclusive of more Alaskans, Frasca said.

Juneau projects include $20 million for overpasses on Egan Drive and Sunny Point, $1.4 million for renovations to the downtown State Museum, $10 million for a fisheries school at Lena Point, $4 million for maintenance at Glacier Valley Elementary School and $5 million for a Glacier Highway extension.

Two Southeast Alaska communities will get funding for projects with conditions. Angoon will get money for a fire truck, snow removal equipment, community hall renovation and a search-and-rescue vessel if the city can provide workers' compensation insurance. Hydaburg will receive $30,000 for a school van upon resolution of financial liabilities.

In the fiscal year 2005, the state raked in about $1.1 billion more in revenue compared to a year ago, due to rising oil prices.

The surplus was spent in four directions. About $400 million contributed to advance funding for K-12 education for the next fiscal year. Another $361 million was spent on projects and services that were paid for last year from the state's savings account, known as the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The budgets did not spend any budget reserve money for next year.

The windfall also paid for $129 million in capital projects, which include roads in anticipation of North Slope gas pipeline work and construction or maintenance on 44 schools from the state's priority list. The surplus also paid for the remaining fiscal year 2005, such as fire-fighting and fuel costs totaling $187 million.

During the previous legislative session, some lawmakers criticized the budget for being too big.

Frasca said the state did not spend all of the cash but saved $107.4 million. Some of that money will be set aside to help pay for unanticipated expenses during the 2006 Legislature.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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